FEMINIST INTERNATIONAL RADIO ENDEAVOR (FIRE)
“Maria, a Puerto Rican Latin American woman, has worked as a teacher in bilingual education for children in New York, and has taught education at the graduate level, both at Albany State University in New York and at the University of Costa Rica. In addition she has worked on literacy programs for adults, especially women-to-women literacy work, and more recently as a human rights popular education teacher-activist in all the Central American countries.” (VISTA, 1991).
She spoke about what joining FIRE means to her: “The uniqueness of FIRE also has an expression in my personal life, and I believe that the personal is political. You see, when I was hired to work on FIRE it was the first time in my life that I was given a job because of who I am and not despite of who I am. Let me explain: I was hired because I am a woman, a Latin American, because I am bilingual, and because I am a feminist. Now, that’s quite a combination for a Puertorican who has lived and worked in Puerto Rico, in the United States and in Central America.”
“As a woman I have had to struggle to have a profession and exercise it. It would have been harder if it were not for the strong women’s movement demanding our rights in the late sixties and seventies, but it was hard nonetheless. Men have first choice no matter what. I worked in schools, universities and mixed non-governmental organizations and movements, always knowing that I was second choice. But FIRE’S staff was to be only women- our place at last.”
“At the same time, being a Puertorican woman in the States, where I studied and worked for eight years and being a Latina is like a curse; also being a Puertorican and because of the isolation of Puerto Rico, and its colonial status it is hard for many Latins in the continent to understand and accept that we are also Latin. Usually I was hired because I was a trained teacher. At FIRE I was hired because of who I am, not even because of my profession I had never worked in radio before.”
“Being bilingual has had the same connotation: in the U.S. we are repressed for speaking Spanish, and in Latin America for speaking English! Here….at last, hired because I am bilingual. Finally, when you bring the issue to being a feminist, well if I started telling you the stories of harassment, discredit and isolation both in the progressive movement and in institutions, it would be a never ending story. But it ended in FIRE. I was hire because I am a feminist!
“Paraphrasing the words of an African-American I interviewed on the air, I can say FIRE saved my life, because it has given me a place, a space where I can live and grow and be all I am. It has given me the opportunity to speak to the world in my own voice and through the voices of so many other women that I have met and known through radio and through its links to the women’s movement. It has saved me from political suicide, gender suicide, cultural suicide, language suicide… and what I mean by that is the threat of homogenization of all of us according to the dominant powers, which can kill all that we are. Feminism and women’s media are definitely making contribution to counteract that. It does it at all levels. Do you know what I mean? In doing feminist media we each have a life of our own to share with all.”
Katerina Anfossi; a Chilean feminist lawyer hosts the Spanish program. She was a founding member of the Spanish programming. She has lived in Costa Rica for the last 18 years and has supported women and women’s groups involved in legal conflicts.
“When I was told that there was a place on FIRE and that FIRE was a space for women in radio, to promote women, I fell it was such an important project that I came to see if I could work in it. I was hired, and it provided a new possibility of continuity of what I was already doing: promoting women’s needs and interests, especially the least protected women. I am a lawyer who was working with women subject to domestic violence.”
“Women are the most marginalized, unprotected and discriminated against, and at the same lime there is a new consciousness of the role that women can play. Women are working to change the world. Broadcasting this program on the air is a constant challenge, the communication with women and men listeners is a great responsibility that I take very seriously.”
“For us it has been very important to create this space for women, because throughout history women’s expression and experiences have been denied. It is a space by and about women, for the world. Women have a culture of listening to radio, and now FIRE is an international place for women to communicate internationally, based on our experiences. “The Radio for Peace International is the right place for it to be aired, because women give new dimension to peace, which includes us, our differences and our commonalities.”
Nancy Vargas; a Costa Rican journalist who had worked on the staff of the University of Costa Rica newspaper and at the UCR radio station.
“The motivations to work here are many, but the main one is that I am a woman. Independently of our race, class, nationality, culture, ethnicity, etc., we are discriminated, because we are women. The feminist alternative had changed my life.”
“I was looking for my rights, that my way of seeing things and my life would have a place in the world. I was hired in FIRE, not because of my journalist professional skills, but because I am a woman, because of my sensitivity to our issues and needs. This is a project that can fulfill my expectations, which is the same as those of other women. When I first came, I was told that this was the space for voices around the world. I learned quickly that this was our space, my space to speak to the world.”
Jeanne Carstensen; a writer and editor from the United States was an editor for five years at Whole Earth Review Magazine in California.
“I came to FIRE for three months ready to contribute any way I could to the project I began by helping on organizational tasks and then began to do programs and gradually got involved in the whole crazy life of FIRE, because FIRE is a way of life.
Through my work with the team and all the women and women’s movements around the world, who have taken us into their struggles, I have learned how essential women’s voices are – for our own survival and for that of the planet.
I considered myself a feminist when I joined FIRE, but it was an empty word, a concept that I learned but never lived in my 20’s in the United States. Thanks to all the women I’ve met, many as they shared their testimonies with the world through the FIRE microphone in my hand, I now know that feminism is a vital, unstoppable force for social justice. I have worked in “alternative” media all my life. First in the bioregional movement, then in the universe of the Whole Earth Catalogue, and now in radio at FIRE, at Radio for Peace International.
“I understand better every day how essential a democratic international information order is if we are to create sustainable, equitable, and peaceful economic and social systems on this planet. Media colonization must be destroyed. From international conventions, to women’s radio station, to women’s human right’s tribunals, women’s voices are breaking through the media barriers and speaking out. FIRE helps amplify those voices in the world, and I am deeply thankful to have had the chance to shout with them.”